Rumsfeld: U.S. Troops in Afghanistan 'Earning Place in History'
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, April 13, 2005 American soldiers serving in Afghanistan serve "as an example of giving to a cause larger than" themselves, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said here today.
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld speaks to the troops during a town hall meeting with U.S. and coalition forces in Kandahar, Afghanistan, on April 13. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Cherie A. Thurlby, USAF
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
A day after visiting Iraq, Rumsfeld made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan, where he held a town hall-style meeting here, met with soldiers in Qalat, and discussed security issues with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul.
During today's event here, Rumsfeld participated in the re-enlistment ceremony of 11 servicemembers. "There were only 11 of them," he said with a chuckle, comparing their numbers to the 100 soldiers he helped re-enlist the day before in Iraq.
The secretary's speech was largely dedicated to reassuring the servicemembers of the significance of their work here, reminding them they've given "citizens a chance at a representative government for the first time in (Afghanistan's) 5,000-year history (and) helped rebuild a society decimated by years of hardship."
"You're earning your place in history. And let there be no doubt it will be a proud one," Rumsfeld added. "An American's mission has always been a proud one. So to you all, to each of you, to all of freedom's men and freedom's women -- for that is what you are -- I thank you for your service to our country, I thank you for your service to the cause of freedom -- the very freedom on which America's security depends."
In a question-and-answer session, Rumsfeld fielded queries on a variety of subjects. One soldier asked if the Army's 12-month tours in combat zones would be shortened. A soldier had asked Rumsfeld the same question during the previous day's visit to Iraq. Since shortly after the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, soldiers have been deployed in 12-month stints, while troops in other services deploy for four to seven months at a stretch.
Rumsfeld said the Army has considered the issue, and a change to the policy isn't likely soon. "Whether or not (tour lengths) might be shortened at some point in the future is really something the Army is thinking hard about and is considering," he added.
Another soldier asked why many media reports from the region have a negative bent. The secretary said the media's job is to sell their products, but added that there seems to be a gap in reporting by and large.
"The people who come to this country and go to Iraq and come out are struck by the contrast, the stark contrast between what they see in terms of progress and contribution by the men and women in uniform, what they see as opposed to what they read and hear," he said.